Here’s a drill to sharpen your puff response techniques. Most sailors know about “ease/hike/trim,” but many do not execute it well in different wind conditions. The No-Hike Hands Drill will help train your hands to respond correctly in a variety of circumstances.
Thanks to Gordy Bowers for suggesting this drill!
How to do the No-Hike Hands Drill
On a gusty day (not too strong!), sail upwind with minimal hiking adjustments in the puffs. The goal of the drill is to use your tiller and mainsheet hands to keep the boat on its lines. Do this drill in the following steps:
- Ease and trim at same rate. When a puff hits, ease the main sheet rapidly to keep the boat on its lines. Don’t steer. As soon as the initial force of the puff passes, trim back in rapidly. Judge the effect on boat speed by feeling the boat and watching the wake.
- Ease rapidly and trim in slowly. When a puff hits, ease the main and leave it out. If the boat flattens, bear off a little. When you have gained speed, trim in and head up. Judge the effect on boat speed and compare the results of techniques 1 and 2. You should find that technique 2 builds more speed without loss of pointing.
- Steering only. Now repeat the drill, this time cleating the mainsheet or holding it steady. Try to keep the boat on its lines by steering only. To be successful you must anticipate the puff and learn to steer up quickly and smoothly without oversteering. Bear off as the puff subsides to keep the boat on its lines. Compare the results with steps 1 and 2. Although the results will depend on the sea state (waves), overall wind strength, and the strength of the puffs, you should find that steering alone is not as fast as working the mainsheet. However, steering is part of the equation and this part of the drill trains your tiller hand.
Use the No-Hike Hands Drill to get comfortable with all three techniques. Then add hiking back in and experiment with a combination of the techniques in different wind conditions. Refer to our post Puff Response: Variations on Ease, Hike, Trim for ideas.